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Parvovirus ('slapped cheek disease') and pregnancy

What to do if you're in contact with someone who has parvovirus, how it spreads, the complications it causes in pregnancy and what treatment is available.

If you are pregnant and you are in contact with someone who has parvovirus, see your GP, midwife or obstetrician as soon as possible, even if you don't have symptoms.

Many pregnant women are immune to parvovirus or 'slapped cheek disease'.

But if you develop the infection, it can cause pregnancy complications. These include miscarriage or health complications for your baby.

Possible complications of parvovirus in pregnancy

Most cases of parvovirus in pregnancy do not cause complications for mother or baby.

There is a small risk of miscarriage in some cases.

There is also a small risk that the virus could cause an infection in your baby. In rare cases, this infection could cause your baby to develop problems like anaemia. This blood condition can be very serious for your baby.

Diagnosis and treatment

A simple blood test will diagnose parvovirus. If you have the condition, you may be referred to a specialist obstetrician. You should also have regular ultrasounds to check your baby's health.

If your baby shows signs of anaemia, they may have a blood transfusion while still in the womb (intra-uterine transfusion).

Symptoms of parvovirus in adults

Not everybody with parvovirus has symptoms. About 1 in 5 people will have no symptoms.

Symptoms and signs may include:

  • headache
  • sore throat
  • blotchy red rash on your face (giving a 'slapped cheek' appearance - this is more common in children than adults)
  • body rash
  • pains in your joints

How parvovirus spreads

Parvovirus spreads before a rash appears. So people may be spreading the infection before they know they have it.

The main way the virus spreads is by droplets from coughing and sneezing.

Preventing parvovirus infection

Help prevent parvovirus spreading by:

  • washing your hands thoroughly throughout the day
  • not sharing eating or drinking utensils with anyone
  • staying at home if you work in a school or a childcare setting where there is an outbreak of parvovirus - talk to your GP, midwife or obstetrician if this happens

Page last reviewed: 26/03/2019
Next review due: 26/03/2022